Today the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (AMC) announced it will not pursue a lawsuit against Walkersville for its denial of their special exception request to build a Muslim convention facility adjacent to this rural town.
We followed this case at RRW because it happened not far from where we live and it brought the publics’ attention to an issue that will be only increasing in coming years—the friction between immigrants’ religious requirements and a community that wishes to maintain its rural character. This last is my take on the issue, the Citizens for Walkersville and other residents focused on how a facility of this size would impact the quality of their environment. Traffic, emergency services, and water supply are examples of the issues that the Board of Zoning Appeals considered in its decision.
Here are some excerpts from the Frederick News Posts article today.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community will not appeal a decision that has prevented them from building a worship center in Walkersville.
The decision made in February by the Walkersville Board of Zoning Appeals was to deny AMC’s special exception application.
The group, based out of Silver Spring, wanted to buy 224 acres of agriculturally zoned land on Woodsboro Pike to build recreational and worship facilities.
Most of the year, the center would have served about 20 local families. During one summer weekend, it would have been used for AMC’s annual Jalsa Salana festival which could have drawn about 10,000 to the center.
“It is our determination that at this time we have to leave the matter in the hands of God, whom we serve,” said Syed Ahmad, AMC spokesman in a statement. “Participation in a lawsuit would be tantamount to a trespass on His hallowed ground.”
Citizens for Walkersville spokesperson had this to say:
The decision by AMC not to pursue a lawsuit is an honorable decision, said Steve Berryman, spokesman for the Citizens for Walkersville, a group opposed to AMC’s request.
When the group announced its intentions, members said they would not pursue the purchase if it was clear the town did not want the mosque, Berryman said. With this decision, they are sticking to their original, honorable declaration.
“It was the best outcome for all concerned,” he said.
I guess the owner of the property has left the door open a crack with this following bit. I had no idea there was a federal law to protect religious freedom in land use. Wow, I wonder what that means? Suppose a religion had some practices that were detrimental to the land. Does religious freedom trump environmental protection?
Roman Storzer, who represents the land owner David Moxley, has hinted at the possibility that he may take the case to federal court.
His options include civil rights action regarding enforcement of the religious freedom protections in the federal and Maryland constitutions and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The act is a federal statute, passed by Congress in 2000, to provide stronger protection for religious freedom in land use.
See all of our coverage of Walkersville, MD and the Amadiyya here.